Tobacco-related illnesses impose an annual economic burden of GHC 668 million, equivalent to 2 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to Dr. Alex Kombat, Senior Revenue Officer of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
He noted that they also constitute three percent of all fatalities in the country.
“Generally, people continue to consume these harmful products because they are addictive and not expensive enough,” Dr Kombat said.
Dr. Kombat highlighted the government’s recognition of the necessity to impose taxes on tobacco products, aiming to raise their prices and discourage excessive consumption.
He noted that taxes have been a policy tool, including excise taxes, customs duties, value-added tax, and the National Health Insurance Levy, to deter tobacco consumption. Despite these measures, industry interference has posed challenges.
Dr. Kombat emphasized the importance of implementing tax policies to align with Article Six of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, aiming to reduce tobacco consumption and generate revenue.
The ECOWAS directive on harmonizing excise duties on tobacco products, which includes ad-valorem and specific duties, faced industry resistance despite efforts by organizations like VALD-Ghana. Bills addressing this issue were submitted to Parliament in December 2022, though they were not passed.
“VALD kept pushing with several press conferences which eventually saw the passing of the excise duty amendment bill into law on March 31, 2023, as an Excise Duty (Amendment) Act 2023 (Act 1093) to amend the Principal Excise Duty Act 2014 (Act 878) to replace the first schedule,” Dr Kombat stated.
The report indicates a decrease in interference from 58% to 56% in public health policies between 2020 and 2021. Its purpose is to support the health sector in combating interference from the tobacco industry in public health policies. The report aligns with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3 and its guidelines.
Mr. Labram Musah, the Executive Director of Programmes of VALD-Ghana, emphasized that the Tobacco Industry Interference Index (TIII) serves as a crucial assessment tool, meticulously designed to scrutinize and quantify various forms of interference by the tobacco industry in public health policymaking. The objective is to monitor and evaluate industry tactics and ensure transparency in decision-making processes.
“The TII scrutinizes a range of indicators to assess industry interference, including Industry participation in policy development, corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, benefits to the tobacco industry, unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry, transparency, conflict of Interest, and preventive measures,” he pointed out.
The report highlights that tobacco control regulations in Ghana lack explicit provisions to counter the interference of the tobacco industry in policy development. Additionally, it points out a delay by the Ministry of Health in developing a code of conduct, which is crucial for providing clear guidelines to public officials in their interactions with the tobacco industry.
Furthermore, the report identifies instances of interference, such as the invitation of the Harm Reduction Alliance—a tobacco industry-affiliated organization—to participate in stakeholders’ engagement on the Narcotics Control Bill after submitting a memorandum to the Chairman of the Committee on Defence and Interior of Parliament.